Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Three Mifi Mobile Broadband Router Goes on sale

I reported the launch of Three's MiFi mobile router back in August. The device is now on sale and Three have announced details of the price plan it is available on. Firstly a quick recap for those who missed the original post:

Traditional Wi-Fi connections are only found in fixed locations such as coffee shops, train stations or at home. They allow users to connected wirelessly but require a wired connection to a telephone line for the incoming signal. The Mi-Fi will use mobile broadband technology to connect allowing users to set up ad-hoc networks anywhere they can receive a signal.
The Mifi is currently available on a monthly rolling contract for £15 per month with a cost of £69.99 for the device itself. The alternative for those looking to simultaneously connect multiple devices is to buy several pay as you go mobile broadband dongles. Users of the Mifi only pay one monthly fee regardless of how many devices they connect.

More details about the Mi-fi including up to date contract information can be found on the three site's Mi-Fi page.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Business Mobile Broadband Sector Continues to Grow

The first section on the population to fully embrace mobile broadband was business users. Portable dongles were originally aimed at those who spend their life on the road going to meetings and needing to check and send documents on the move. A recent report by ABI Research has predicted that business take up will continue to grow despite the state of the economy.

ABI expect business subscriptions to increase by 17% next year despite many companies having to cut back on outgoings. It seems that mobile broadband is considered a necessity rather than a luxury. Eastern Europe and the Middle East have been highlighted as key areas for growth of the mobile data business market. Even subscriptions in the UK are expected to continue to rise in the coming years despite the recession.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Spotify Comes to the HTC Hero

The Spotify iPhone App was released back in July for premium subscribers. It allows users to stream an unlimited amount of free music via their mobile phone for £9.99 per month and includes the ability to create offline playlists.

The Spotify catalog includes over 5 Million tracks from 375,209 artists. Users can sign up for free although the service is temporarily invite only at the moment. Free users are unable to connect via mobile phone.

Spotify have recently announced that they are now working with Mobile Phone provider 3 to bring the Spotify mobile app to the HTC Hero. So far only customers with a HTC Hero on a 24 month contract will be able to use the app which is being launched next month.

Three also hinted that their deal with Spotify will eventually extend to other products including mobile broadband. Presumably Spotify streams will be excluded from monthly download allowances for mobile broadband customers. Three have previously embraced Skype's VOIP technology so they clearly aren't afraid to move with the times.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Smart Phone Etiquette

Ours is the first generation to grow up with the mobile phone and the internet. We now have the internet in our hands in the form of the smart phone but when isn't it smart to use your phone? Can you check your emails in company without causing offense?

A report commissioned by Intel has investigated people's attitudes to smart phone usage and found that most people are still uncomfortable if you use your phone in their company. 69% of participants thought that mobile phones should stay in the pocket in company. Only 60% thought that going online or using your phone during a date was bad manners.

Half of those asked thought that going on line at the dinner table was a no-no. The other half aren't welcome at my house! The worst offenders in my opinion are those strange people who think that it is okay to play music out loud via their mobile phone's speaker in public. These people tend to have bad taste in music along with poor judgment.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Prince Charles Concerned by 'Broadband Deserts'

The Prince of Wales writing in The Telegraph has expressed his concern at the lack of mobile broadband coverage in rural Britain. Charles, who set up the Rural Action Programme following the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, believes that rural areas need high speed broadband in order to prosper.

"...there is no doubt that our countryside remains in crisis and we have to continue to find new ways to help. The provision of services – without which no community can survive, let alone flourish – must be central to our efforts. And it has become clear that one of those services – the lack of access to high speed broadband – is putting many of those who work in rural communities at a severe disadvantage."

Mobile broadband
has been suggested as the solution to the problem of limited fixed line broadband penetration in rural areas. The Government's aim of 'Broadband for all by 2012' as part of the Digital Britain Report is reliant on increasing mobile broadband coverage. Currently about 2 million people in rural areas are not able to receive broadband of 2mbps or above.

The Prince said that access to broadband would help to support businesses, schools individuals in rural areas. He describes "broadband deserts" where no signal is available and warned that without broadband more farmers would have to abandon their livelihoods.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Mobile Broadband is Mostly Being Used at Home as an Alternative to a Fixed Line

Mobile broadband used to be mostly sold as a portable way to access the internet. Before the Blackberry became popular having a pay as you go mobile broadband dongle meant that you could check your emails when you were out of the office or on a train. Business men and women where the core market and you certainly didn't get a free laptop.

Recent research by Virgin Media has shown that 78% of their mobile broadband customers predominantly use their dongles at home. This shows how the mobile broadband market has changed; these days it is often seen as a cheaper and easier alternative to having a phone line. Why pay to have a phone line installed and then pay a monthly fee if you have an inclusive mobile phone contract? Why buy a laptop when you can get one for free with mobile broadband?

There are of course reasons why some people stick with fixed line broadband (lets not get into that debate now). People who rent or don't have much of a disposable income are increasingly choosing the mobile option. The fact that they aren't being as mobile with their laptop doesn't surprise me, particularly with the rise in Smart Phones that have a decent 3g connection.

Monday, 12 October 2009

3 Wins Best Mobile Broadband award

3 Mobile has won the best mobile broadband award at this year's Mobile Choice Consumer Awards. Three's 15GB tariff beat off the competition to take first prize for the best monthly package. Three offer a Samsung N130 netbook, mobile broadband dongle with 15GB data allowance and 100 free texts for £25 a month.

"We are delighted to be recognised as winners for our Mobile Broadband year on year and to be able to offer our customers deals that are great value for money," Marc Allera, sales and marketing, Three.

TheMobile Choice Consumer Awards also include categories for Phone of the Year, Tariff of the Year and Best High Street Retailer. The winners are decided by the readers of Mobile Choice.

T-Mobile and Orange Merger Could be Delayed

The merger of two of Britain's biggest telecoms providers is likely to be delayed whilst it is investigated by the Office of Fair Trading. The merger which was made public last month would create a company with a 37% stake of the mobile phone market in the UK and reduce the number of large providers to four.

The Guardian reports that the merger has been refered to EU regulators by the OFT and could be delayed. Consumer groups have been vocal in oposing the merger which they say will lead to reduced competition in an already limited market. Proposed reglations could mean that several of the main providers could be forced to sell of parts of their mobile spectrum to avoid any one company having too large a share.

The 3G spectrum needs improvement if the Governments pladge of 'broadband for all by 2012' is to be met. The Government has called on mobile broadband providers to increase their coverage to areas that cannot recieve fixed line broadband. (The Guardian article linked above claims that providers will have to 'plug the gaps in existing fixed-line infrastructure with wireless broadband'. They seem to be confusing Wireless broadband (which uses a wireless router plugged into a phone line) with Mobile Broadband) . If no single company is allowed a larger share of the spectrum this increase in coverage will have to have the backing of each of the main providers.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Carphone Warehouse CEO Charles Dunstone Says that 'Mobile Broadband has Peaked'

The CEO of The Carphone Warehouse (and Talk Talk) Charles Dunstone believes that Mobile Broadband 'has peaked' and is being deserted by consumers. Speaking to The Guardian he said that:

"We get a sense that the mobile broadband thing has peaked. We are seeing some of those people begin to realise that the bandwidth you get on mobile is so much less than you get on a fixed line. Mobile broadband is increasingly a supplementary rather than a substitutional thing, and an increasing proportion of Carphone sales are of pre-pay dongles."

I was amazed to read this particularly after a report released earlier in the week stated that mobile connections are set to overtake fixed line subscriptions by the end of the year. As I mentioned on Twitter Mobile Broadband take up has doubled in the past year alone which makes Dunstone's comments seem at best misinformed.

He makes a good point about a lot of mobile dongle sales being to fixed line customers but the suggestion that mobile broadband has peaked seems way off. Those of us who have grown up with mobile phones see little point in having a landline and if mobile broadband speeds increase it could do serious damage to sales of traditional broadband subscriptions.

Some of the networks are clearly struggling to cope with infrastructure not yet ready for so many connections and will be forced to improve. The pay as you go mobile broadband market is very competitive so whom ever can offer their customers the best speeds and most reliable connection is set to do well.

I would be very interested to see any statistics Mr Dunstone can provide to back up his argument. As ISP Review says "every other piece of research we've seen has appeared to communicate the opposite conclusion."

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Mobile Broadband to Overtake Fixed Line Connections by The End of the Year

Mobile broadband subscriptions (including high speed internet connections on mobile phones) are expected to reach 600 million by the end of the year. Fixed line subscriptions look set to reach 500 Million. That means for the first time ever there will be more mobile broadband connections than those operating via a phone line.

The scale of mobile broadband take-up is staggering, the International Telecoms Union reported a 50% increase in subscriptions over the last year alone. Mobile subscriptions are expected to reach 4.6 Billion by the end of the year so clearly the percentage of mobile phones with high speed internet access remains low. Pay as you go mobile broadband and free laptop deals continue to grow in popularity.

the increase in connections could be negative for the consumer in the short term but will lead to improvements in infrastructure likely to benefit all users in the long term. Increased demand will see the current 3g infrastructure strained but improvements will be made. Whilst even the best mobile broadband can fall behind fixed line in terms of speed consumers will expect improvements and providers will be looking to proved them.